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How My Political Views Helped Me Grow Spiritually

 

I think most politically involved Christians would say that their politics are influenced by their faith. This is true for me, as well; however, I’ve realized recently that the opposite is also true: my growing political views have actually helped me to grow as a Christian.

Even from childhood, I’ve often been a judgmental Christian. I have a history of being hard on myself and others. I remember being very upset with my parents one Sunday because we weren’t going to go back to church for the evening service; weren’t we supposed to be there every time the doors were open? I also nearly broke down in tears once because my sister was talking about buying a two-piece bathing suit.

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Knowledge and Appreciation

 

I sit beneath fluttering leaves on a cool spring evening, listening to the splutter of dripping water amid strange squeaks shared between too numerous young squirrels. Potted flowers and trees from every precipice of the world are gathered on the patio of a lovingly cultivated garden. Light and shadow play on passing clouds that hide airplanes carrying unseen hundreds. The sun finally begins to settle, casting new lines and dramatic shapes over the familiar scene, painting it anew.

If I had a dog, it would know things about this place that I do not: the scent of the starling, the voice of a distant pup. But it would not ponder as humans do. It can look but does not see. Dogs do not think in gardens and music and histories. They are wonderful creatures, but simpler.

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The first Sunday of Lent: The Triumph of Orthodoxy

 
The Triumph of Orthodoxy – Theodora’s restoration of icons. By Anonymous – National Icon Collection (18), British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7306236

Great Lent is the most profound time of the Orthodox year. The rigors of fasting (to the extent that you can do it – not everyone can, and if you can’t it’s nobody else’s business), the added services throughout the weeks, the very special nature of those services, the change in the tones of chanting from major keys to more muted and plaintive minor keys, and the change in the vestments and various draperies, covers, and hangings to darker colors, all together carry the change of the season. There is also a cycle of Sunday services as Lent approaches, with each Sunday being set aside for something significant to the history of the Church, to remind the Orthodox annually of the commitment they have made to carry on with the living tradition and faith of nearly two thousand years.

Eastern Orthodoxy is sometimes called the Church of the Seven Councils, after the first (and only) truly Ecumenical Councils (“ecumenical” here meaning those councils which could be said to truly represent all of Christendom, and whose decrees were universally accepted by all of Christendom – though the Catholic Church numbers many more, the Eastern prelates were either not represented, or the decrees of these councils were never accepted by them). The first Sunday of Lent is called, variously, The Sunday of Orthodoxy, or the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and commemorates the Seventh and final such council and its aftermath. This final council settled the final major theological question of the ancient Church: the proper role and place of religious art. In so doing, it closed arguments that had ebbed and flowed for nearly 500 years, and had been the cause of riots, banishments, and wholesale destruction of art throughout all of the eastern provinces of Christendom (many early relics and works of art from the East were sent West during this time).

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Why Do People Sell Their Integrity for So Little Money?

 

This question is prompted by the recent Wall Street Journal report that the brother of Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend sold the racy photos of Mr. Bezos for $200,000. But I have thought of this question on occasion ever since the early 1990’s when a man working for a US government agency was arrested for spying for […]

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Lent Part 2: The Triodion

 

In the first part I gave a brief overview of the services of the Orthodox Church that signal that Great Lent is not far off. But these were still basically “regular” services. In the three weeks and four Sundays before Great Lent, however, we enter into a new phase in the liturgy that carries all the way through Great And Holy Pascha (Easter), a phase that departs from the regular service orders and is called the Triodion (the canons chanted during this time originally had but three odes each, hence the term). In the Orthodox Church, this is the most sacred and special time of year, far exceeding Christmas in its significance, and in the physical and spiritual preparation we undergo. 

However, we’re not quite there… yet. There is something of a joke that I heard a priest say. If Lent is a preparation for Pascha, the three weeks beforehand are a preparation for the preparation. There are four rather special services, the first three of which each begin a week of this pre-preparation. First there is the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican, then the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, followed by Sunday of the Last Judgement, and concluding with the Sunday of Forgiveness. As I heard another priest put it: these services are like your mother calling out to you to get inside as it’s getting dark.

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QotD: Doubt and Faith

 

“Only those who doubt really believe, and those who do not doubt are neither tempted against their faith nor do they truly believe.” — Miquel de Unamuno, The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho (trans. Anthony Kerrigan), as published by Terry Teachout, artsjournal.com, March 11, 2019 More

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Breaking the Narrative

 

Not every accusation against our priests and bishops is true. Not even a conviction in court, it seems, merits uncritical trust. An EWTN report by Raymond Arroyo on the unjust conviction of Cardinal Pell in Australia: More

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Is the Catholic Church in Trouble?

 

I just found this video titled, “Is the Catholic Church Dying?” narrated by a guy who goes by the name of Catholic Bryan. More

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In Other Religious News

 

If you write something with “anti-Semitism” or “anti-Semitic” in it, and these phrases are not enclosed in quotation marks, your post is instantly elevated to the Main Feed, thus reducing to near zero the odds that I will look at it. That’s handy! Or am I just imagining this automated editorial mechanism? Not that those […]

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Ex-Jehovah’s Witness criticize the policy of shunning

 

I just finished reading “The Reluctant Apostate: Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses Comes at a Price” by Lloyd Evans. It provides a detailed look at the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and how Evans’ mother ended up joining the faith after a series of failed relationships. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) are born into the faith and find it very difficult to leave the faith even if they want to.

Why? Lloyd Evans explains his reluctance to leave the JWs in his book and much of it is due to the JW policy of “shunning.” Once a member of JWs are disfellowshipped or disassociated, no one within JW is allowed to speak to the former member, not even immediate family members. In the case of Lloyd Evans, once Lloyd left the JWs and was disassociated, his father disowned him immediately and, thus, never met Lloyd’s newborn daughter.

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On Pi, Carl Sagan, and Looking Up

 

I just learned, this afternoon, that today is Pi Day. After a (perhaps overdone) comic effort here, my strange mind went wandering down a more serious path. It made me think of Carl Sagan, and much more. The path from Pi to Dr. Sagan may seem obscure, so please bear with me. More

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An Early Morning Insight

 

Groggily stirring from a deep sleep this morning, the Haftorah reading for the week came to mind. (Not being a Torah scholar, I was surprised and perplexed.) I had read it over the day before and thought that it was pretty straightforward. But as I lay in bed, I realized there was a prescient message that spoke to the present times. I wanted to share that with you.

I Samuel, 15:2-34 was about G-d telling the prophet Samuel to instruct King Saul to defeat King Agag and the Amalekites, destroying all the people and all of their animals. (The Amalekites had viciously attacked the Hebrews previously.) Saul was not the brightest bulb and decided that he’d just slightly adjust the commands from G-d. So when he defeated the Amalekites, he kept the King alive (probably figuring, what could he do now without an army to support him) and also saved many of the best animals, figuring they could be used for sacrifices. Hey, you can never have too many sacrificial animals.

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Everyday Miracles

 

On Monday evening, I was at my regular weekly men’s Bible study. We were on the last session of a terrific study on apologetics by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries called Everyday Questions. We had watched the video and I was leading the group discussion when my phone rang. I checked and it was my wife. She […]

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enthusiastically cheer the first two months of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and point out that good things can happen when a leader hits the ground running on the things they promised to do. They also wince as just six House Democrats agree that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be voting. And they wonder if millennials are really far to the left or whether they embrace labels they don’t quite understand as 73 percent favor the government instituting universal health care but 79 percent want to keep private insurance.

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